Charles Read (naval officer)

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Charles William Read
Charles William Read.jpg
Second Lt. Charles Read
Nickname(s)"Savvy" or "Savez"
BornMay 12, 1840
DiedJanuary 25, 1890 (aged 49)
Meridan, Mississippi
Place of burial
Meridian, Mississippi
Allegiance United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
 Confederate States Navy
Years of service1860–1861 (USN)
1861–1865 (CSN)
RankMidshipman (USN)
Confederate States of America Lieutenant strap-Navy.png Lieutenant (CSN)
Commands heldCSS McRae
CSS Arkansas
CSS Florida
CSS Clarence
CSS Tacony
CSS Archer
CSS Scorpion
CSS Webb
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Charles William Read (May 12, 1840 – January 25, 1890), nicknamed "Savvy", was an officer in the antebellum United States Navy and then in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. He was nicknamed the "Seawolf of the Confederacy" for his exploits and daring.

Early life and career[edit]

Charles Read was born in Satartia, Mississippi in 1840.[1] He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1856 and graduated in 1860. He served briefly aboard USS Powhatan after graduation.

Civil War[edit]

At the outbreak of the American Civil War Read resigned his commission with the United States Navy and accepted a position with the Confederate States Navy. Read was initially assigned to the CSS McRae at New Orleans, Louisiana as a midshipman and participated in the battle between batteries on Ship Island and the USS Massachusetts on July 9, 1861.[2] On October 12, 1861, he participated in the attack on the Union blockading squadron at Head of the Passes on the Mississippi River.[2] When the commander of the CSS McRae was wounded on April 24, 1862, Read took command of the ship.[2]

Read then served as executive officer of the CSS Arkansas during its actions against a blockading fleet of over 30 ships on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi on 13 July 1862. Read served as acting commander of the Arkansas during her final battle supporting the Confederate Army assaulting Baton Rouge, Louisiana on 6 August 1862. After the sinking of the Arkansas, Read travelled by foot to Port Hudson, Louisiana and assisted with the emplacement of shore guns there.

Read was soon ordered to Mobile, Alabama and was assigned to the CSS Florida which set sail on 15 January 1863. He transferred to the CSS Clarence, a captured prize of the Florida, and set out on his own. During this raiding mission, which lasted from 6 June 1863 to 27 June 1863, Read transferred his command to prize vessels twice more, once to the CSS Tacony and finally to the CSS Archer.[3]

At the end of the raid, Lieutenant Read had captured or destroyed twenty-two United States vessels. He and his crew were captured off Portland, Maine on June 27, 1863, while attempting to take the USRC Caleb Cushing. Read was held at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, until he was exchanged at Cox Wharf, Virginia, on October 18, 1864.[2]

After his release, Read participated in naval and land operations on the James River, he commanded the CSS Scorpion and two other torpedo boats at the Battle of Trent's Reach. In January 1865, he was assigned to the CSS Webb at Shreveport, Louisiana with the intention that she become a raider in the Pacific Ocean. Read did not reach the Webb until 22 April 1865. Read attempted to break out to the Gulf of Mexico but grounded in shallow waters near New Orleans on April 23, 1865. Read fired the ship to prevent its capture by Federal forces. Read surrendered to Federal naval authorities in New Orleans and was transported again to Fort Warren. He was released on July 24, 1865.[2]

After the war[edit]

In 1867, Read was second officer aboard a ship involved in an effort to help Cuban rebels overthrow the Spanish government of the island. Read and others were arrested by the US government but were quickly released.

Read earned his nickname "Savvy" or "Savez" due to his constant use of the term.

Charles Read died at Meridian, Mississippi, where he is buried.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shaw, David W. (2004). Sea Wolf of the Confederacy: The Daring Civil War Raids of Naval Lt. Charles W. Read. Free Press.
  2. ^ a b c d e Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy. Office of Naval Records and Library United States Navy Department. Mattituck, NY: J.M. Carroll & Company. 1983. ISBN 0-8488-0011-7.
  3. ^ Phil Leigh. Charles Read’s Raider, The New York Times, May 10, 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Campbell, R. Thomas, Sea Hawk of the Confederacy: Lt. Charles W. Read and the Confederate Navy, ISBN 1-57249-178-7
  • Jones, Robert A., Confederate Corsair: The Life of Lt. Charles W. "Savez" Read, ISBN 0-8117-1532-9
  • Shaw, David W., Sea Wolf of the Confederacy: The Daring Civil War Raids of Naval Lt. Charles W. Read